NBA star Ricky Rubio and former sharpshooter Peja Stojakovic delighted kids as guest coaches at Basicball Academy’s basketball camp Monday.
Young players at the camp had the opportunity to rub elbows with the international pair at Dubai Sports World as they went through drills at different stations before taking on Rubio and Stojakovic in a shooting competition at the end.
For a nation still striving to develop the sport of basketball from the grassroots level, the presence of Rubio and Stojakovic was another step in furthering the progress of the game in the UAE.
“They have the structure and I’ll definitely be supportive. I like the idea of promoting the sport here and hopefully in the near future the game of basketball will get more popular,” Stojakovic, most known for his seven years with the Sacramento Kings, told Sport360.
“Having the facilities is always a plus. The kids these days have the opportunityto see the NBA on a daily basis, not like 20 to 25 years ago. They can follow the stars on social media so they have the tools to follow the NBA.
“It’s just about passing on some of our experiences and letting them know basketball is a game they should love, enjoy and respect.”
Despite having been in Dubai for only a matter of hours after landing early on Monday morning, Rubio was impressed with the enthusiasm of the kids who were eager to soak up everything he and Stojakovic doled out.
“It’s amazing how big the things are here and a lot of kids here play sports, not just basketball,” said the point guard of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
“It’s amazing. I sat down with them and they were asking a lot of questions. They really want to know, learn how to play basketball and learn how to get better and that’s great.”
The young crowd that took part in the camp was a representation of where Stojakovic feels the sport’s attention needs to be to improve the overall quality.
“If you want to grow a particular sport in the nation, then you should have a variety of sports in schools at a very young age,” Stojakovic said. “Learning from a young age, learning what basketball is all about and inserting that bug.”
One of the children taking part in the camp, 15-year-old Maksim Nelepa, was ecstatic to meet his idols. The Macedonian, who plays at the shooting guard position, received invaluable tips from the pros to raise his own game.
“That was a dream come true. They’re two of my favourite basketball players and to actually meet them, see them in person and get advice from them, was something that I’ve dreamed of since I was a kid,” Nelepa said. “Them being able to provide it and to do it in such a great way, where we could enjoy the experience with amazing players, it was really great.
“I’m so glad we had the opportunity to see one of the greatest playmakers of our time (Rubio) and one of the best shooters in history (Stojakovic). I couldn’t be luckier.”
In addition to yesterday’s star power, Houston Rockets centre Dwight Howard made a surprise appearance on the camp’s first day on Sunday.
The camp continues every morning until Friday, August 28.
Usain Bolt will try to move closer to a sprint double over American rival Justin Gatlin at the world championships in the men’s 200 metres semi-finals in Beijing on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Grenadan Kirani James will bid to back up his London Olympic gold with a world title in the 400m but in what should be a thriller, he will be pushed hard by other contenders including defending champion LaShawn Merritt.
Botswana’s Isaac Makwala could grab headlines by becoming the first man from his country to win a world title after qualifying fastest for the final with a time of 44.11 seconds, while South African Wayde van Niekerk will be a dark horse.
Bolt is never far from the spotlight as the marquee name of athletics and he will be looking to tighten his stranglehold on sprinting’s major titles after pipping two-times doping offender Gatlin in the 100m final at the weekend.
The Jamaican superstar, a six-time Olympic champion, clocked 20.28 seconds to cruise into the semi-finals while Gatlin also won his heat in a time of 20.19.
Bolt, whose victory in an electrifying 100m provided the crisis-hit sport with a tonic after allegations of widespread doping in the build-up to Beijing, is looking to win a seventh individual world championship gold.
The absence from the women’s 200m heats of Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, opting out after already retaining her 100m title, and American Allyson Felix has blown the gold medal race wide open.
— Team Jamaica (@JamaicaOlympics) August 24, 2015
Decorated Jamaican Veronica Campbell-Brown, the former Olympic and world title-holder, could enjoy a golden swansong, although countrywoman Elaine Thompson, Nigeria’s Commonwealth Games champion Blessing Okagbare and Dutch 100m silver medallist Dafne Schippers could also shine.
The ever-present American threat includes Jenna Prandini, Jeneba Tarmogh and Candyce McGrone, who has run 22.08 this year.
Other finals on Wednesday include the women’s pole vault, 400m hurdles and 3,000m steeplechase, as well as the men’s javelin.
David Rudisha displayed all his tactical nous to claim a second world 800m title in Beijing on Tuesday and bury memories of a career-threatening knee injury that has wiped out two seasons.
The Kenyan Olympic champion and world record-holder led from gun to tape, clocking a relatively slow 1min 45.84sec for victory at a packed Bird’s Nest stadium.
Poland’s Adam Kszczot claimed silver in 1:46.08, with Bosnian Amel Tuka taking bronze (1:46.30), his country’s first-ever in the world champs.
He may be yet to break 1:43 this season, but Rudisha proved the perfect tactician on the night to see off all contenders and add to his triumph in Daegu in 2011, after injury forced him out of a title defence in Moscow two years ago.
— IAAF (@iaaforg) August 25, 2015
“Today was more like a tactical race and that’s all I wanted to do,” said Rudisha, who added that a switch from endurance to speed work over the last month had paid dividends.
“I knew I had my speed and there was nothing really to worry about because I wanted to run that way, to control my speed and then sprint in the last 150 as I planned. I knew the guys didn’t have my speed.”
But it did not all go exactly to plan after Rudisha went out fast to nail down point, going through the first lap in 54.15sec.
Down the far straight, European champion Kszczot tried to force past Rudisha on the inside, but the Kenyan managed to muscle him off as the pack spread with runners looking for a clean line.
“As I was coming into the back straight, two guys attacked, on the inside and outside, they came across so I had to accelerate, maintain that pace and then sprint in the last 150 as I planned,” said Rudisha, who set an amazing world record of 1:40.91 when winning gold in the London Games.